There is something profoundly depressing about going to a supermarket.
As I’m wandering around the aisles, gazing at a display of J-cloths and disinfectant, a heavy wave of depression comes over me and I can’t help but feel that maybe there’s more to life than looking for the best offers on antibacterial toilet seat wipes.
Supermarkets are invariably incredibly crowded; the music they pipe over the tannoys is always something by one of either George Michael, Elton John or Coldplay, and – perhaps because of the previous point - people are in a bad mood and get annoyed if you so much as accidentally place your trolley at a slightly inconvenient angle and unintentionally block their way to the yoghurt four-pack of their choice.
However, I am forced to go to these soulless, miserable places most weekends in an effort to keep my marriage intact.
I have, you see, the misfortune to be married to a woman who gets upset if we don’t spend time together.
Now look, I know it’s Valentine’s Day and I should be a little more romantic, but I’ve never understood this spending time together thing. My ideal day is to spend it on my own. A woman’s ideal day is to spend it with someone else. Forget bits of our anatomy, this, I believe, is the fundamental difference between the male and female species.
“You never hug me or show affection,” Mrs Canavan often says forlornly.
“I do,” I argue back. “We held hands on holiday in Devon in 2009” (which is true, though only because I’d been drinking and forgot myself).
I once got told off for not helping or showing concern when my partner, after an evening of drinking rather heavily, bolted from the bed in the early hours of the morning and ran to the bathroom to be sick (from the sound of it several times; it took an age to unblock the loo the next morning).
“Why didn’t you check I was all right and stroke my hair?” she later asked.
Now I like to think I’m a caring individual (when an elderly neighbour unsteady on her feet needed a lift to the local shop for milk and bread recently, I stopped my car, wound down the window – though not too far because it was raining violently and I didn’t want to get my leather upholstery damp – and told her there was a short cut through the ginnel which would knock at least three minutes off her journey). But I draw the line at watching someone, no matter how well I know them, vomiting into a toilet bowl. The thought of actually touching them as they did it is beyond the pale.
Anyway, back to the weekend shopping trip. “You promised to decorate the back bedroom two years ago and it’s still not done, so you’re coming to Tesco whether you like it or not,” Mrs Canavan shouted. Which is actually a nonsensical argument but it wasn’t the time to point it out, so after muttering and sighing and tutting for a lengthy period in the hope Mrs C would cave in and shout ‘fine I’ll go on my own’ (she didn’t), I meekly went along with her.
What a demoralising experience. At dinner-time on Saturday, we approached the store (which is the size of a small country, so big there’s passport control and sniffer dogs at the door), only to find there was a traffic jam just to get in the damn car park.
“Shall we turn back?” I asked hopefully.
‘No’, barked Mrs Canavan, while jabbing me hard in the side with her fingers, which is, technically, assault and something I will bring up in court if we ever go through, as seems likely, an acrimonious divorce.
Once inside the store, we had to navigate aisles more gridlocked than the M25 in rush-hour. The breakfast cereal aisle was particularly congested and as I weaved my way towards the Weetabix I accidentally ran my trolley over the toes of a very unimpressed middle-aged woman. I apologised, twice, but from the look on her face – and the size of her bruised, swollen toes – I’m not sure she accepted it.
It took more than an hour to complete the shop, not helped by Mrs Canavan’s addiction to special deals. Standard exchange: “Pickled onions are on offer”. Me: “But neither of us eat pickled onions”. Her: “It’s two jars for £1.50 – we’ll get them for a rainy day”.
Then the pièce de résistance.
After totting up our bill and taking our hard-earned cash, the young lad on the checkout – so young he had to ask a colleague called Geoff to swipe the bottle of wine we’d bought – cheerily remarked ‘good news, you’ve saved £11.80 by shopping at Tesco today’.
Saved? Our bill had come to £121. We’d almost had to re-mortgage the house to pay for it. This Saturday I’m feigning illness.
Not all things better in old days
I stumbled upon this rather marvellous advert from days gone by – the Auto Strap for front seat tots.
As you can see, it is for a contraption which tethers children during car journeys, so they can ‘sit, stand, kneel or sleep without disturbing driver’.
What the advert doesn’t say is whether or not it would help a child survive should the car be involved in a horror smash but, hey, let’s not be picky.
Maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised about this ad, after all these were the days when doctors used to regularly appear on billboards advertising nicotine (famous ad from the 1950s: “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!”, accompanied by a photograph of a happy smiling medic puffing away).
As much as I moan and whine about modern-day society, maybe there are some things that have moved on and improved a bit after all.